On June 22, for the first time, Halifax will join a world-wide community in celebrating Social Media Day (originally launched in 2010 by Mashable to recognize and honour the impact of social media on global communication) with a full-day conference focused on learning, sharing and growing. Organizers of the conference recently contacted me looking for specific advice on how to approach sponsors about this new initiative.
Here’s my response…
- Carefully research potential sponsors and know there is a strong “fit” with your event. A potential sponsor needs to clearly and quickly understand why you are approaching them. For example, you could look at similar conferences or events that have taken place in Atlantic Canada and approach a sponsor by saying, “I’m contacting you because I know you participated in the such-and-such event as a sponsor. We will be attracting a similar audience to our conference and believe there is value to you.” You can also look at the companies that have been involved in Social Media Day events worldwide and use this as your opening. For example: “Halifax will be joining celebrations of Social Media Day this year and we know that your industry is a prominent sponsor of the world-wide events … .”
- Be succinct and straightforward when speaking to potential sponsors about the value to them. Because this is a new initiative, your prospects will be cautious and perhaps a bit cynical. State what you know, such as attendance at similar local conferences and/or attendance at events in cities of a similar size – or the demographics of those who attend Social Media Day conferences worldwide.
- Approach potential sponsors in multiple ways. You want this event to take place annually so, when it comes to sponsors, you want to create a strong, ongoing relationship. Definitely phone them first, using your message to indicate that you are also sending an email and will follow up with them. For example: “Hi So-and-So, This is Such-and-Such calling to share with you some exclusive information on Halifax’s celebration this year of Social Media Day. I am available today until 2 pm at (phone number), that’s (phone number). I’m also going to take the liberty of sending you an email with detailed information. If we don’t connect by phone today, I’ll follow up with you (on Friday or early next week or next week).” Offer to meet with potential sponsors. The best way to book a meeting is to offer two choices in the near future and then ask an open-ended question. For example: “The next best step is for us to get together and discuss the details. I’m available this week on Tuesday morning or Thursday afternoon. What works best with your schedule?”
- Use your existing contacts to reach the right person. It is vital to get information in front of the correct decision maker and they are not always easy to track down. Reach out to all of your networks, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc., to identify, and perhaps receive an introduction to, the right individual. Besides, using social media to connect about Social Media Day speaks directly to the expertise you bring to this initiative.
- Make the offer simple. All of us are struggling to make decisions in our overloaded world. It is better to present sponsors with a few well-crafted and powerful options than a multitude of choices.
- Give potential sponsors a clear deadline. This helps them focus; this helps you stay on track with your timeline and … it gives you permission to contact them frequently as the deadline approaches. Know that you will likely have to extend the deadline, so make it earlier than you need, but know that it’s a strong motivator for making things happen.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up. This is crucial. Make sure you connect and get a final decision from everyone you approach. Remember that you are building relationships for this year, next year, the year after and so on. Potential sponsors may take a “wait and see” attitude because this is the first year of the event. That’s perfectly understandable. Perhaps offer them a discount on a ticket to the event so they can experience what you create. Make sure to meet them at the venue and strengthen the relationship for 2019.